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December 18, 2013

WRESTLING WEDNESDAY: Jolley-Little has set his sights on state title

Jeff senior wants to redeem himself in Indy

JEFFERSONVILLE — Gavan Jolley-Little has a simple, yet ambitious goal for the 2013-14 wrestling season.

He wants to be crowned the 285-pound state champion at the IHSAA State Finals in February at Bankers Life Fieldhouse in Indianapolis.

“I’m very determined. My goal is to be a state champion, not just placing [at state] or qualifying for state,” said the Jeffersonville senior, who is currently ranked fifth in the state in the heavyweight division. “State champ is my goal and I’m not going to be happy if I don’t do that.”

Jolley-Little got a taste of what it was like to compete in the state finals last season when he made his first appearance in Indiana’s ultimate high school wrestling tournament.

Jolley-Little suffered a first-round loss to Indianapolis Cathedral’s Wesley Bernard in the 285-pound division. The Red Devil standout was pinned at the 3:22 mark.

Jeff coach Danny Struck says Jolley-Little is focused on redeeming himself at the state finals this season.

“He’s absolutely motivated to do better than he did,” Struck said. “Winning state is a tough thing. I’ve never had a state champion yet. We’ve had a lot of good heavyweights and he’s definitely the most accomplished offseason heavyweight we’ve had. His goal is to be the most accomplished in any season.

“I think Jeff High has had two third-place heavyweights. But they’ve never had a heavyweight in the finals and he would like to do that.”

Jolley-Little said he got taught lots of valuable lessons about competing at the state finals. He hopes that experience will help him return to state and win it all this year.

“I learned not to go out of your comfort zone as much as I would a regular match,” Jolley-Little said. “I learned I had to wrestle to my strengths and not put myself in situations where I’m going to wrestle outside of my strengths.”

Jolley-Little says a big factor in his state championship quest is if he can get his knee back to full strength. Jolley-Little tore his lateral collateral ligament and his lateral meniscus in April. He had surgery to repair his knee after he won his division in the FILA Cadet Greco Roman National Championships in May in Akron, Ohio.

“I need to get my knee back to 100 percent strength,” Jolley-Little said. “I definitely need to improve my bottom wrestling and in moving my feet.”

Before trying to qualify for the state finals, Jolley-Little has several other goals he wants to accomplish in 2013-14.

One of them is capturing his first Jeff Classic championship on Saturday. Jolley-Little enters the tournament as the No. 1 seed at 285 with a 7-0 record. He has made three pins this season.

“It would mean a lot because last year I was kind of upset at the tournament and lost two matches that I should’ve won. To come back and win it this year would mean a lot,” Jolley-Little said about winning a Jeff Classic title. “I think there will be some pretty good competition. There are two ranked guys besides me [at 285] and I wrestled one of them last weekend and I won. So I feel like I’ve got to get past those two guys if I want to come out on top.”

Later in the season, Jolley-Little wants to repeat as the Hoosier Hills Conference heavyweight champion and claim titles in all of the postseason tournaments like sectional, regional and semistate.

“An undefeated season is a big one and I’d like to get 30-plus pins,” Jolley-Little said about two additional goals he has for his senior season.

Another reason Jolley-Little wants to perform well this season is because his late father expected him to do his best all the time.

Jolley-Little’s father passed away on March 11. Since then, Jolley-Little has taken on more responsibility in taking care of his family.

“He has kind of become the man of his house,” Struck said. “A lot of times he’ll be taking his brothers to the dentist or his brothers to get their haircuts or to their sports practices. A lot of times, he has them [at practice] with him. They have been like an extended family. I think he has grown up a lot in the last six months.”

For the past few seasons, Jolley-Little has prepared himself for the high school campaign by competing in several offseason tournaments. His success in those tournaments has helped him earn All-America honors five times.

“It’s just kind of like an extra sense of pride in myself,” Jolley-Little said about being an All-American. “I use it as motivation for the high school season. I use it to get better and as motivation to do better in the high school season as I did in the offseason.”

Another offseason event for Jolley-Little was his visit to the United States Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, Colo., during the 2013 spring break.

Jolley-Little says his offseason wrestling activities is beneficial to him.

“It keeps you in shape. It keeps your conditioning up and it keeps you in your skill sets,” Jolley-Little said. “Sometimes when you don’t wrestle for a long period of time, your skills aren’t as sharp as they should be.”

Jolley-Little has been getting some interest from college teams. He has talked to two NCAA Division I programs in Indiana and Old Dominion and a pair of Division II schools in Northern Michigan and Indianapolis.

Struck thinks Jolley-Little has the potential to persevere at the college level if he keeps working hard.

“I think he’s definitely determined to do the best he can at any level,” Struck said.

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